In the Scriptures, we see those who hold to the faith also hold diligently and stringently to the Word of God. Our aim in defending the faith is to point to what God says. While people may ask questions of us, we can (like Jesus) ask questions of them to penetrate their worldview to make them think. The approach depends on to whom we are ministering.
When Jesus talked to the Jewish leaders and those at the Feast, where did He start? He started with pointing out something that was around them, then bringing in the Scriptures (as we’ve seen before). When he taught the disciples and lectured the Pharisees, he would start with a story or a saying or even a Scripture, then direct them even further in to what God said on the matter. But the time frame of how quickly he came to the Scripture depended on who they were.
Take a look at Acts. In chapter 2, Paul starts with how in the world the Jews from differing countries and languages could possibly understand these uneducated, common men (see Acts 4:13). But he quickly went to the Scriptures in Joel about the Spirit coming, then to the Psalms about a man who died but rose again. Why? For the Jews, the Law (the OT) was their authority, so he didn’t need to take time to make that case.
Acts 17:16-34 is a bit different.
- He started with the idols he saw in Athens down main street, and noted how religious they were.
- He pointed to a place where it said, “To an unknown God.”
- Then he used that to springboard into a conversation that there is a God who made everything whom you can know.
- He points to their own poetry from Epimenides.
Where did Paul start? In the same spot he started with the Jews—in their culture. But since the Scriptures were not as known and they served another, it would take time for them to get to there—to establish the authority. But he did appeal to the general revelation of creation and their understanding of the supernatural and an unknown deity to move on to the notion that there is a God who has made Himself known—through Jesus Christ and His resurrection.
So God calls us to make sure we not only know our Bibles, but know the people and the culture to whom we wish to apply and share that Bible.
This is what it comes down to. If it’s all just about our relationship with Christ, then we will only go so far as we want to go in our study. One would hope that we would study and learn because we love Christ and we want to learn as much about the one we love as possible.
But it’s not just about our relationship with Christ as a Christ—it’s about our love for those who bear His image. Believers and non-believers will have questions, share their convictions, make their contentions.